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The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown: Celebrity Recipes and Hollywood Memories from Six Feet Under the Mistletoe

The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown: Celebrity Recipes and Hollywood Memories from Six Feet Under the Mistletoe

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The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown: Celebrity Recipes and Hollywood Memories from Six Feet Under the Mistletoe

5/5 (3 ratings)
214 pages
1 hour
Oct 1, 2012


The toast of Christmas past is back and not a moment too soon! In The Dead Celebrity Christmas Cookbook, Frank DeCaro serves up culinary delights from Edmund Gwenn's Christmas Cup to Bing Crosby's Sugar Cookies and celebrates the best of the season's movies, TV specials, and music. Recipes from such late luminaries as Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, Burl Ives, Dinah Shore, and even Boris Karloff are featured in chapters saluting fabulous amusements like Miracle on 34th Street, Meet Me in St. Louis, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Plus recipes from singers like Eartha Kitt ("Santa Baby"), Elvis Presley ("Blue Christmas"), and John Lennon ("Happy Xmas (War is Over)") celebrate the best holiday platters.
Oct 1, 2012

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The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown - Frank DeCaro

Praise for The Dead Celebrity Cookbook . . .

God, is it brilliant!

—Ted Allen, Chopped

These are the stars I grew up watching and they deserve to be remembered even if they were more talented on screen than they were in the kitchen.

­—Rosie O’Donnell

One of our ten favorite pop culture cookbooks . . . most enticing . . .

—Flavorwire, Huffington Post

Dead tasty!

—Marie Claire

"While Halloween might come only once a year, there’s never a bad time for The Dead Celebrity Cookbook."


Flip on a movie channel and get cooking! Required reading.

—Billy Heller, New York Post

A veritable who’s who of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

—Sara Bonisteel,

Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol may be gone, but their favorite dishes will never be forgotten. Try one tonight!


We hear Rock Hudson’s Cannoli is delicious!

—Entertainment Weekly

The perfect gift for your favorite cook.

—Amy Scattergood, LA Weekly

Chow down on your favorite dead stars’ recipes. Come on, it won’t kill you!

—Michael Musto, The Village Voice

Health Communications, Inc.

Deerfield Beach, Florida

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

ISBN 13: 978-0-7573-1614-2 (paperback)

ISBN 10: 0-7573-1614-X (paperback)

ISBN 13: 978-07573-1641-8 (ebook)

ISBN 10: 0-7573-1641-7 (ebook)

©2012 Frank DeCaro

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the ­publisher.

HCI, its logos, and marks are trademarks of Health Communications, Inc.

Publisher: Health Communications, Inc.

3201 S.W. 15th Street

Deerfield Beach, FL 33442–8190

Cover image ©

Cover design and interior illustrations by Larissa Hise Henoch

Interior design and formatting by Lawna Patterson Oldfield



1. It’s a Wonderful Lunch

Beulah Bondi’s Baked Eggs

James Stewart’s Spareribs with Barbecue Sauce

Lionel Barrymore’s Fettuccine Alfredo

Donna Reed’s Lemon Bundt Cake

2. Miracle Whip on 34th Street

Thelma Ritter’s Seafood Dip

Jack Albertson’s Stuffed Crown Roast of Pork

Natalie Wood’s Beef Stroganoff

William Frawley’s Mulligan Stew

John Payne’s Lamb Casserole with Port Wine

Darryl F. Zanuck’s Chicken Curry

Edmund Gwenn’s Christmas Cup

3. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas Cookie

Rosemary Clooney’s Viennese Goulash

Danny Kaye’s Stir-Fried Oysters and Shrimp

Bing Crosby’s Sugar Cookies

4. A Feast of Fabulous Forgotten ’40s Features

Barbara Stanwyck’s Christmas Kipfels

Charles Ruggles’s Cauliflower and Mushroom Casserole

Dennis Morgan’s Stuffed Steak

Gale Storm’s Chicken Cacciatore and Noodles Parmesan

Don DeFore’s Cheese Fondue Casserole

Joan Blondell’s Buffet Ham

Reginald Denny’s Broiled Lobster Tails

George Brent’s Saratoga Potatoes

Janet Leigh’s Individual Cheese Soufflé

Robert Mitchum’s Eggnog

Wendell Corey’s New England Boiled Dinner

5. Eat Meat in St. Louis

Judy Garland’s Ham Casserole with Sherry

Vincente Minnelli’s Chicken

6. Munch of the Wooden Soldiers

Stan Laurel’s Ham Ring Mold

Oliver Hardy’s Baked Apples with Honey and Almonds

7. Animation Mastication

Jim Backus’s Avocado Salad Dressing

Boris Karloff’s Halibut Royale

Charles M. Schulz’s Favorite Seven-Minute Frosting

8. Rankin’ the Narrators

Fred Astaire’s Chicken Soup with Homemade Noodles

Greer Garson’s Guacamole

Burl Ives’s Stuffed Leg of Goat Hawaiian

Jimmy Durante’s German Cole Slaw

Shirley Booth’s Pumpkin Bread

Red Skelton’s Ham Hock and Lima Beans

9. Force Yourself to Be Merry

Bea Arthur’s Avocados with Jellied Consommé

Art Carney’s Avocado, Grapefruit, and Endive Salad

Alec Guinness’s Baked Stuffed Peaches

Harvey Korman’s Chicken Stew

10. What a Fruitcake!

Dinah Shore’s Fruitcake

11. A Christmas Homecoming

Edgar Bergen’s Swedish Meatballs

Patricia Neal’s Sunshine Parfait

12. A Dozen Holiday Platters

Eartha Kitt’s Crocked Rabbit with Winter Vegetables

Dean Martin’s Baked Potatoes with Caviar

Maxene Andrews’s Greek-Style Rice Pilaf

Gene Autry’s Texas Chili

Nat King Cole’s Baked Ham Loaf

Elvis Presley’s Hush Puppies

Peggy Lee’s Holiday Halibut Casserole

Karen Carpenter’s Peach Mabel

Ray Conniff’s Wine Cake

Marlene Dietrich’s Zabaglione

Spike Jones’s Molasses Jumbles

John Lennon’s Hot Cocoa

13. Just a Little Christmas Now

Lucille Ball’s Brazil Nut Stuffing

Joan Crawford’s Angel Food Cake

14. Mr. & Mr. New Year’s Eve

Dick Clark’s Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

Guy Lombardo’s Lobster Lombardo

15. One for the Road

Norman Rockwell’s Oatmeal Cookies




No one makes a bigger deal out of holidays than we do at our house and no ticket—not even for Book of Mormon —is harder to secure than a seat at our Christmas Eve table. We don’t care about religious beliefs; we just insist our guests be totally enthusiastic. We demand they commit themselves 110 percent to the celebration. Like a certain reality competition, we have voted friends off Christmas Island. It’s rough at our place on December 24, but it’s worth it.

Every year brings a new theme to our festivity. We choose them as much as five years in advance and start collecting ornaments, glassware, china, tabletop decorations, linens, and anything that fits the motif we’re going for. If the producers of Hoarders ever want to do a Christmas special, I’m their man.

So far we’ve done a hot pink and chartreuse color scheme (what I called "Laugh-In Christmas), a candy theme we referred to as Operation: Gumdrop, and an all-Hawaiian holiday dubbed Mele Kaliki-Tiki. We did a TV-and-movie-star-obsessed Pop Culture celebration one year, a royally resplendent Purple-and-Gold motif another, a sophisticated Black-and-White look, a Chanukah-inclusive Blue and Silver design, and Bells, Bells, Bells, which was just what it sounds like. This year, it’s going to be Merry and Bright. Next year, it’s Felt. The year after that is Peppermint Twisted." I’m thinking stripes.

I told you, we plan ahead.

So when it came time to do a new volume of The Dead Celebrity Cookbook—a book that became something of an international sensation—it seemed only natural to create a holiday edition. After all, Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it can leave a host or hostess wondering what to serve that he or she has never served before.

Thanks to the book you’re holding, you can create a holiday celebration that’s retro but completely new: Christmas the way they did it in Hollywood back when the phrase celebrity chef meant a singer or actor who was also handy in the kitchen, not some hotsy-totsy cook with a cable show.

This year, whip up Peggy Lee’s Holiday Halibut Casserole on Christmas Eve, an especially appropriate dish if you traditionally don’t eat meat that night. On Christmas Day, make Joan Blondell’s Buffet Ham, and then use the leftovers in Nat King Cole’s Baked Ham Loaf to feed all your return-happy mall-crawlers on the 26th. Instead of just watching Miracle on 34th Street this year, cook up a batch of Natalie Wood’s Beef Stroganoff to savor while you view. If you’re more of a Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special type, there’s Dinah Shore’s Fruitcake. The best thing about these easy recipes is that you can make them without roasting your chestnuts on an open fire. There’s no stress here.

With Christmas in Tinseltown, you can put the kitsch back in your kitchen and lend that tired holiday ham some much-needed glam. In the pages that follow are more than 60 recipes for appetizers, main dishes, sides, and desserts from such beloved stars as Bing Crosby, Burl Ives, Bea Arthur, and the Grinch himself, Boris Karloff. All are linked to Christmas in some special way. For years, I’ve been collecting stars’ recipes via out-of-print cookbooks and musty biographies that I picked up at flea markets, old appliance manuals, tattered giveaway pamphlets and vintage magazines that I found on eBay, newspaper clippings forwarded to me by listeners of my Sirius XM radio show, and more.

In this book’s themed chapters—It’s a Wonderful Lunch, Eat Meat in St. Louis, and Munch of the Wooden Soldiers, to name a few—you’ll find a variety of recipes, such as James Stewart’s Barbecued Ribs, Vincente Minnelli’s Chicken, Oliver Hardy’s Baked Apples, Jimmy Durante’s German Cole Slaw, Barbara Stanwyck’s Kipfels, and a Christmas Cup worthy of Santa himself from Edmund Gwenn. None appeared in The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, by the way—all are exclusive to this volume. These celebrities may be six feet under the mistletoe, but their culinary prowess lives on.

I hope you’ll think of this book as your guide to the best food, music, movies, and TV shows that the holidays have ever had to offer. I say holidays because there’s a New Year’s Eve chapter in Christmas in Tinseltown as well. It didn’t seem right to do a book that celebrated stars gone by without including Dick Clark and Guy Lombardo. For decades, they made our holidays bubblier. My wish is that the recipes and the viewing and listening suggestions contained in Christmas in Tinseltown will do the same for you for many years to come.



When I was a kid growing up in the ’70s, It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t so much a Christmas movie as a Christmas-is-coming movie. My grandmother would always check off the program listing in TV Guide in red pencil to make sure we’d remember to tune in. Watching that movie was like seeing Santa Claus sleigh his way down Broadway at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It meant that pretty soon we’d all be shouting Merry Christmas! as vociferously as George Bailey (James Stewart) does at the film’s culmination.

I never fully appreciated It’s a Wonderful Life as a child. In those days, my favorite part of Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday film classic was the temporarily wingless angel named Clarence, played by Henry Travers. But as Karen Walker always said on Will & Grace, Kids are dumb. Now he just bugs me. As George complains at his lowest ebb in the movie, You look about like the kind of angel I’d get. Clarence is basically a doofus in a nightshirt; no wonder it takes him so long to earn his wings. And as for those chitchatting stars in the heavens, who thought that was a good idea? Sorry Mr. Capra, but that’s just K-O-R-N!

In fact, much of It’s a Wonderful Life is corny, even the title. In our cynical age, you’d think we’d dismiss the movie as just so much holiday goo. But we don’t. The performances in it are just too good to resist. There’s Stewart as the savings-and-loan officer George—caring but complex, pleasant but plagued by darkness—and Donna Reed as his wife Mary Hatch Bailey, gorgeous and romantic and funny and strong. And then there’s Lionel Barrymore, with vinegar in his veins, as Henry Potter, the richest and meanest man in the county. Who would stoop so low as to steal $8,000 from dizzy

Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) at Christmas? Even Scrooge would call that bum an ice-hole.

The film has so many memorable scenes: the shovel-riding accident when George saves his brother, the poison prescription at the pharmacy, the school dance when everyone ends up in the drink, the run on the bank that costs George and Mary their honeymoon, the couple’s make-do romantic dinner in the ramshackle house that would become their family home, George’s breakdown before his justifiably terrified kids, his visions of the world had he never been born, and especially, his climactic moment as he runs through the streets of Bedford Falls shouting at the top of his lungs, so very happy to be alive on Christmas. The moment that gets me is when George tells Mary in a whisper that comes from his heart via his loins, You’re wonderful! I could plotz.

As film critic Roger Ebert once wrote, "What’s remarkable about It’s a Wonderful Life is how well it holds up over the years. It’s one of those timeless movies like Casablanca or The Third Man that improves with age."

Here’s the weird thing, though. When It’s a Wonderful Life premiered in theatres in limited release at the end of 1946, it wasn’t much of a hit. Reviews were mixed. The New York Times, for instance, said the film was undone by its own sentimentality. The FBI branded it a commie undertaking because it vilified bankers. The movie didn’t even make the top 25 grossing pictures of 1947, the year it went into wide release. Yes, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, but it won none. Most of the trophies went to The Best Years of Our Lives.

It’s a Wonderful Life achieved the status of a holiday classic only after it was broadcast on television—again and again—in the 1970s and ’80s. Since then, it truly has become part of pop culture as families began making an annual viewing of the film a holiday ritual. No one was more surprised at the film’s rise to the top decades after its release than the man who made the movie himself. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen, Frank Capra told the Wall Street Journal in the early 1980s. The film has a life of its own now.

Much to the director’s dismay, a gender-reversed TV movie

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  • (5/5)
    Author: Frank DeCaroPublished by: Health CommunicationsAge Recommended: ALLReviewed By: Arlena DeanBook Blog For: GMTARating: 5Review:"The Dead Celebrity Cookbook Presents Christmas in Tinseltown: Celebrity Recipes and Hollywood Memories from Six Feet Under the Mistletoe" by Frank DeCaro is really a great book for the holidays. If you are a movie lover or cook this book is for you being filled with the bygone era of the true stars that really are good. You will also find "terrific tales of long ago era and the stars that created those memories for many people." Not only is the book a great gift idea, for it is a wonderful book full of antidotes. You will find Frank DeCaro is 'hilarious and full of pop culture and Hollywood ennui.'"Christmas in Tinseltown" features recipes for the holiday season and all year around. All of the celebrities who are featured have a special connection to the holidays. Frank DeCaro's funny, friendly narrative writing style adds a warmly witty tone to the book, and the recipes run the gamut from simple to superb. The chapters are divided into courses, and the titles are quite punny: "It's a Wonderful Lunch"; "Miracle Whip on 34th Street", "Munch of the Wooden Soldiers", and "What a Fruitcake", just to name a few. Here are some recipes that really caught my eye: "James Stewart's Spareribs with Barbeque Sauce"; "Jimmy Durante's German Cole Slaw"; "Red Skelton's Ham Hock and Lima Beans"; "Natalie Wood's Beef Stroganoff"; "Dinah Shore's Fruitcake";"William Frawley's Mulligan Stew"; and "Oliver Hardy's Baked Apples with Honey and Almonds". Just like the original "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook","Christmas in Tinseltown" is delicious from appetizer through to after-dinner drink." That just about says it all. These are great recipes all rolled up into this great collection.I am a cookbook collector and indeed these are some of the best recipes of the bygone era and would make a wonderful gift for any movie buff. So, if you are looking for a special recipe book for the holiday, I would recommend: "Christmas in Tinseltown."